Due to come in to effect on November 1st, a new law allowing off-road vehicles on the roads of Utah’s national parks has been reversed, and the longstanding prohibition on off-road vehicles in Utah’s national parks and monuments will remain in place. The decision marks a victory for conservationists who feared rule-breakers would cause permanent damage at Utah’s five most popular national parks — Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion.
“Utah’s national parks and monuments are renowned for their wild landscapes, which inspire visitors and continue to deserve the highest levels of protection,” said Kristen Brengel, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Park advocates and community leaders from across Utah and beyond recently came together and spoke with one voice, in the name of maintaining such protections surrounding off-road vehicle use. The Interior Secretary and Park Service clearly agree and are continuing the more than century-long mission of protecting unique and fragile resources that this generation, our children and grandchildren will enjoy.”
Off-road vehicles have not been allowed in Utah’s national parks and monuments. National park superintendents have detailed the threats that these vehicles pose to park resources and visitors, including the likelihood that users will take the machines off-road, as they are designed to do, and impair the clean air, water, natural quiet, and environment that Congress has charged the Park Service to protect.
“The Park Service made the right decision to keep off-road vehicles out of Utah’s national parks and monuments,” said Steve Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). “There are tens of thousands of miles of roads and dirt trails throughout Utah where these vehicles can be driven. Trying to shoehorn that use into the parks and monuments didn’t make sense and inevitably would have resulted in damage to the very things that make these places so remarkable and what visitors come to experience.”
“National Parks were established to conserve the cultural and natural history of this nation so that all generations can enjoy the incredible natural and cultural resources and scenery,” said Phil Brueck, former Deputy Superintendent of Canyonlands and Arches national parks. “Today’s decision is the right one for the future of our national parks.”
More than 30 local businesses submitted a letter to the Interior Department opposing the proposed change to allow off-road vehicles into Utah’s national parks and monuments. In addition, the Grand County Council, City of Moab, and Town of Castle Valley passed a joint resolution opposing the proposed change.
Utah’s national park system units that would have been affected by this change include The Mighty Five National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches) and several National Monuments (Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Cedar Breaks).